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Want to be a Bail Bondsman? Know The Difference Between Bail in The Federal And State Courts.

Did you know there were more than half a million crimes committed in Virginia in 2017 alone? A large percentage of those who committed crimes were released on bail bonds. Being a bail bondsman can be a profitable and rewarding career. One of the biggest questions potential bondsmen have? What is the difference between federal vs state court bail bonds? This article explains everything you need to know on the topic.

Federal Vs. State Court Bail Bonds

Many people are shocked to learn there is a huge difference in federal vs state court bail bonds. The one big thing that remains the same is their purpose.

The purpose of both types of bail bonds is to allow the temporary release of someone who committed a crime. The release allows the person to be with their families and continue working. It also allows them to consult a lawyer about their upcoming court case.

The requirements of federal vs state court bail bonds are very different. State court bonds are easier to get. Federal bail bonds are stricter and harder to get.

How Do State Bail Bonds Work?

In Virginia, there are three types of state bail bonds you can receive.

The first is called an Own Recognizance or OR bond. This is when a person is released from custody on their word. They sign a document promising to appear in court.

Own Recognizance (OR) is only available for minor offenses. Typically, the person can’t have committed previous crimes. Sometimes, a previous minor offense won’t stop a person from obtaining an OR but it’s up to the courts to decide.

A cash bond occurs if someone pays the bail in full. Usually, these bonds aren’t paid for by the person under arrest but by a responsible third party. This might be a family member or a close friend.

If the arrested person appears at all their court appearances, the money paid in a cash bond is returned. It usually takes between sixty and ninety days for the person who posted bail to receive their return. If the arrested person missed court, the money is forfeit.

The last type of bond available is called a surety bond. This is a contract between the court and the bail agent who posts the bail money in full.

In return for the bail being fronted, the defendant signs a guarantee they will appear at all court proceedings. This guarantee is backed by a financial investment of twenty to thirty percent of the full bond amount. This money is nonrefundable.

Why Might A Person End Up In Federal Court?

With state court, the offenses are usually minor. Federal court charges tend to be more serious. There is a lot of overlapping in federal vs state court charges, however.

No matter the charge, there are two ways a person will end up in federal court. This is through either a summons or an arrest that warrants federal charges.

Appearing in federal court through a summons is the best-case scenario. It allows for bail plans to be made before the court hearing. This means a person will be free sooner, and may not spend any time in prison at all.

If a person is lucky enough to appear on a summons, their attorney has likely made arrangements. These arrangements include the type and cost of the bond. All agreements have to be approved with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The second way a person ends up in federal court is through an arrest. They arrive at the court in custody on a federal charge and aren’t guaranteed bail or bond.

To be eligible for a bond through this second scenario, a person has to go through a detention hearing. At the hearing, a federal magistrate will determine if a defendant is a flight risk or threat.

The magistrate will determine this based on a few factors, including:

  • How long a person has lived in the district they were charged for a federal crime
  • What family ties or responsibilities a defendant has in the area
  • Their employment history
  • The defendant’s level of education
  • Whether there are prior criminal charges
  • Whether the defendant travels frequently or possesses a passport
  • Whether there is a history of warrants or failing to appear in court
  • Whether the person has ever lived under an assumed alias
  • Whether the defendant or a family member has equity available to place against the bond

How Do Federal Bail Bonds Work?

If the person is determined to not be a flight risk or threat to public safety, they can receive a federal bond. There are two types of common bonds available for federal court cases.

A signature bond is unsecured. It’s like a promissory note and is usually signed by a responsible third party or “cosigner.”

The cosigner is usually a family member. It may also be a close friend or a lawyer representing the defendant.

A property bond is a secured bond. Usually, the security is real estate.

There are a lot of steps required to receive a property bond in Virginia. The real estate in question must have a current appraisal. There also needs to be an updated lot book from the title company.

All paperwork must be notarized. Then, it must be filed with the county recorder’s office.

All federal bail bonds have strict conditions to be met by the defendant after approval. If any conditions aren’t met, the defendant will be arrested and placed back into prison.

The conditions of federal bonds vary. There are a few usual conditions, though.

The defendant must agree to cooperate with their probation officer. They must agree to allow their probation officer to track their lifestyle.

Defendants who are out on bond can’t associate with anyone known to be a criminal. They also must either stay employed or gain a lawful form of income.

It’s also common for people out on bond to submit to and pass random drug tests. These drug tests are typically done with the probation officer. Sometimes they’re done at special clinics.

Where Can I Find More Information?

Do you still have questions about federal vs state court bail bonds? Check out our resources on becoming a bail bondsman for more information.